Posted 03-03-2010

Ann Kiernan replies:

In many states it is illegal for an employer to use your private life against you in your job. That’s a violation of your right to privacy. However, if you bring the company into disrepute with your postings, then you have crossed the line and your behavior is not protected.

For some reason I do not understand, there have been a number of cases involving police officers who had off-duty adult websites. Pointing to the open and notorious nature of the employee’s conduct and its effect on the employer’s image and morale, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld San Diego’s firing of a police officer who, under the nickname Codestud3@aol, sold videos of himself performing sex acts while wearing his police uniform. Similarly, in Dible v. City of Chandler, 551 F. 3d 918 (9th Cir. 2008), a police department fired one of its officers, after it learned that he was running a website featuring sexually explicit photographs and videos of his wife. The court pointed out that when an officer’s private life affects the workplace, whether his activities were related to his employment or not, the city could discipline him without violating the officer’s privacy or First Amendment Rights. As the appeals stated, “

[The officer] may have the constitutional right to run his sex oriented business, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman at the same time.”

Since state laws about privacy vary, you should consult a local employment attorney for the best advice.


Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.